Monday, February 25, 2008


In recent times the word mantra has been adopted by English speakers to mean something like: "a phrase repeated incessantly in order to hypnotise oneself, or others, into belief". This is an example of the destructive misappropriation of words from other cultures. In its original sense, a mantra is a poetic address or invocation to an aspect of the Divine. A more appropriate word than mantra to have borrowed, to mean a repetitious phrase, would have been the Indian word japa.

A mantra is a means of concentrating and directing a specific quality of the Supreme Self for a purpose. A mantra need only be said once, but is only effective if uttered in a true state of meditation: a state in which the utterer is one with the Self. The formula of a real mantra will always acknowledge that the divinity or quality being invoked is truly a part of the Single Supreme Self. Mantras are composed in Sanskrit, an ancient Indo-European language with marked similarities to Latin and Greek. A form of Sanskrit called Pali spread, with Buddhism, as far East as Japan. A true mantra, in the ancient Sanskrit language, begins by addressing the Supreme Self thus: om twameva sakshat..., which means something like "Amen, verily Thou art...", then names a deity or archetypal principle. Mantra is an important feature of religions which originate in India, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. The Zoroastrian religion of ancient Iran also has the practice of mantra (called manthra in the Avestan language, a close relative of Sanskrit).

"The Sanskrit word mantra- (m. मन्त्रः, also n. मन्त्रं) consists of the root man- "to think" (also in manas "mind") and the suffix -tra meaning, 'tool', hence a literal translation would be "instrument of thought".
Another explanation is that the suffix -tra means "protection".
The Chinese translation is zhenyan 眞言, 真言, literally "true words", the Japanese on'yomi reading of the Chinese being shingon."


The famous Gayatri Mantra invokes "the universal Brahman as the principle of knowledge and the illumination of the primordial Sun" -Wikipedia :

Om Bhūr Bhuva Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayāt.

The Supreme Self, coextensive with the Universe, is available at all times and places, but as the self-realised writer Franz Kafka realised, it is sometimes necessary to invoke it in one of its infinite variety of aspects.

"Life's splendor forever lies in wait
about each one of us
in all its fullness,
but veiled from view,
deep down, invisible, far off.
It is there, though,
not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf.
If you summon it by the right word,
by its right name,
it will come."
- Franz Kafka

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Brahman, in the scriptures of India, is the infinite, eternal Self underlying all things. It is all that exists and does not exist. The idea of Brahman is at the core of Hinduism, though it is often a hidden core. It is the hidden monism or monotheism underlying Hindu polytheism; however, it would be imprecise to equate the term Brahman with 'God'. In the Taittariya Upanishad Brahman is described as "the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity". Since it is eternal and infinite, it comprises the only truth. The goal of Hinduism, through yoga, is to realize that the soul (Atman) is actually nothing but Brahman.

Brahman cannot be conceptualised, but it is referred to in various great sayings
that form the true basis of Hinduism:

"Brahman is knowledge"
"The Self (or the Soul) is Brahman "
"I am Brahman"
"Thou art that"
"All this that we see in the world is Brahman",
"Brahman is existence, consciousness, and bliss".

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Truth is non-possession

The Self-knowing One said:
There is an island standing in the midst
of the fearsome torrent of transience and death,
a refuge to those who flounder
in the flood of impermanence.

Possessing nothing, attaching to nothing,
That is the incomparable island,
That is the ending of decay and death.
I call it Perfect Beatitude
Those who have found refuge there
Are themselves the island of refuge
Where the realm of delusion is no more

Be a refuge unto yourself
Take refuge in none other
Islanded by Trueness
Take refuge in Trueness
Take refuge in none other

Trueness is self-possession
Trueness is non-possession
Of matter, thought or emotion.
Through this one abides
An island unto himself
A refuge unto himself
And is out of the darkness.

-Buddhist text
"So we must train this mind to hear the Dhamma, to cultivate the Buddho, the clear and radiant awareness, that which exists above and beyond the ordinary mind and knows all that goes on within it. This is why we meditate on the word Buddho, so that we can know the mind beyond the mind. Just observe all the mind's movements, whether good or bad, until the one who realizes that the mind is simply mind, not a self or a person. This is called cittanupassana, Contemplation of Mind. Seeing in this way we will understand that the mind is Transient, Imperfect and Ownerless. This mind doesn't belong to us."

Friday, February 01, 2008

the word 'I'

We set up a word at the point at which our ignorance begins, at which we can see no further, eg., the word 'I", the word 'do', the word 'suffer':- these are perhaps the horizon of our knowledge, but not 'truths'.
-John Banville

What controls the effectiveness of a writer's use of words is not the capacity to clasp meaning tightly, it is an almost tactile knowledge of the layout of their property lines, and even more, their litigations over common ownership. For the writer, almost everything in the word is a border, and almost nothing is contained.
- Julien Gracq


The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.
There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind.
The material world has only been constructed at the price of taking the self, that is, mind, out of it, removing it; mind is not part of it...
Matter and energy seem granular in structure, and so does 'life', but not so mind.

Erwin Schroedinger (1887-1961) Austrian theoretical physicist, was a professor at several universities in Europe. He was awarded the Nobel prize for his work on Quantum Mechanics, in 1933. During the Hitler era he was dismissed from his position for his opposition to Nazi ideas and he fled to England. He was a keen student of Advaita Vedanta philosophy.